A selection of images from the Library of Congress found via the always excellent Ptak Science Books blog. The daguerreotype, invented by Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre in 1837, was the first commercially successful photographic process and was popular throughout the mid-19th century. Daguerreotype portraits were made by the model posing (often with head fixed in place with a clamp to keep it still the few minutes required) before an exposed light-sensitive silvered copper plate, which was then developed by mercury fumes and fixed with salts. This fixing however was far from permanent – like the people they captured the images too were subject to change and decay. They were extremely sensitive to scratches, dust, hair, etc, and particularly the rubbing of the glass cover if the glue holding it in place deteriorated. As well as rubbing, the glass itself can also deteriorate and bubbles of solvent explode upon the image. The daguerreotypes below are from the studio of Matthew Brady, one of the most celebrated 19th century American photographers, best known for his portraits of celebrities and his documentation of the American Civil War which earned him the title of “father of photojournalism”. The Library of Congress received the majority of the Brady daguerreotypes as a gift from the Army War College in 1920.
In this section of the site we bring you curated collections of images, books, audio and film, shining a light on curiosities and wonders from a wide range of online archives. With a leaning toward the surprising, the strange, and the beautiful, we hope to provide an ever-growing cabinet of curiosities for the digital age, a kind of hyperlinked Wunderkammer – an archive of materials which truly celebrates the breadth and variety of our shared cultural commons and the minds that have made it. Some of our most popular posts include visions of the future from late 19th century France, a dictionary of Victorian slang and a film showing the very talented “hand-farting” farmer of Michigan. With each post including links back to the original source we encourage you to explore these wonderful online sources for yourself. Check out our Sources page to see where we find the content.
Today the Oxford Dictionaries announced their word of the year for 2013 to be “selfie”, which they define as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.” Although the rampant proliferation of the technique is …Continued